Private housing holds up

Construction new orders for the first quarter of 2013, released today by the ONS, fell 10% compared to the fourth quarter.
They were also 0.2% lower than the same quarter one year earlier.

However, most sectors showed little change, the key differences were a marked rise in private housing orders, offset by a significant fall in infrastructure activity.

Dr Noble Francis, CPA economics director said: “Recent GDP figures have pointed to signs of growth in the overall economy, but construction has continued to face very challenging conditions with output already 7% lower than a year ago. Today’s new orders figures reflect these continuing difficulties.

“Most encouraging were indications of growth in the private housing market. Government policies – particularly FirstBuy, Funding for Lending and the recently announced Help to Buy – are giving major house builders the confidence to build. Because private housing has a short time-lag between orders and output, these new orders should lead to a further rise in housing activity this year.

“Of greater concern, however, is the 50% drop in the infrastructure sector since the previous quarter and the 39% fall compared to Q1 last year. This came despite the government’s regular and enthusiastic pronouncements of support over the last two years, such as the Chancellor’s £5 billion capital investment ‘boost’ in last year’s Autumn Statement, £20 billion in new private investment in infrastructure and a further £5.5 billion capital investment ‘boost’ in December.

“As we have previously highlighted, the government must do better at translating such infrastructure announcements into new orders and real activity on the ground. Those aimed at housing are clearly delivering a beneficial effect; infrastructure must match this if we are to have a sustained economic recovery.”

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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